Dr. Raj Shah at the launch of the Pakistan Ministry of Health’s new Birthspacing Initiative to Improve Maternal, Newborn, Infant and Child Mortality. Photo by Amy Koler.
The U.S. and Pakistan have consulted closely on the shared objectives of addressing Pakistan’s National Health Policy, which outlines the priorities for the nation, which include family planning, maternal and child health, workforce development, and combating infectious diseases to meet the Millennium Development Goals.
On Sunday, Dr. Shah attended the launch of the Pakistan Ministry of Health’s new Birthspacing Initiative to Improve Maternal, Newborn, Infant and Child Mortality. “Overall, (the strategy) will help ensure that pregnancies occur at the healthiest times of women’s lives. Specifically, it will help reduce high risk pregnancies – those that occur at too late or too early an age, or too soon after a previous pregnancy – through greater use of birth spacing services,” he said.
The Obama administration recognizes that the key to improving health is to strengthen country and local ownership, especially at the community level. “ We know that strong national leadership and capacities are essential for development progress. Health systems can only thrive where there is wise leadership investing in people, institutions and infrastructure; particularly where governments are responsive and accountable to their citizens.
Science Magazine’s Insider Blog looks at how USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah brought together the world’s leading science minds this week during a 2-day conference to focus and highlight the ways innovation, science and technology can revitalize the development agency. Shah hopes science and technology can help the agency solve “grand challenges” in global development and used the workshop to pose broad questions about how USAID could identify, select, and implement these challenges. USAID had solicited input via a Web site for possible ideas like “a model toilet of the future for the poor.” About 60 people from academia, industry, and government have begun to whittle down the list and brainstorm about how to proceed.
On Monday, Secretary Clinton and Dr. Rajiv Shah gave remarks regarding the status of Haiti six months after a devastating earthquake ravaged the small nation. The AFP reports that the duo reconfirmed their commitment to reconstruction and development after the disaster. Secretary Clinton stated, “Six months later, our resolve to stand with the people of Haiti for the long term remains undiminished. We are committed to aligning our investments with the needs of the people and the government of Haiti.” Dr. Shah emphasized the idea of stricter construction codes and working with local partners to achieve a responsible and functional outcome.
PIRCOM has trained more than 21,000 religious leaders from a variety of faiths on malaria prevention and treatment.
Left unchecked, disease imperils the stability and prosperity of all; therefore, improving global health outcomes is a shared responsibility. This means reaching out to community elders, leaders, and religious groups to ensure the quality and reach of health services and messages.
Religious leaders, along with their well-established networks of volunteers and community groups, have the potential to promote and sustain positive changes in the social norms, attitudes, and behaviors of their communities, which can affect development outcomes. Thus the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) engages religious leaders to facilitate greater partnership in, as well as ownership of, a community’s development.
Over the past few years, malaria and other global health programs have increased support to grassroots health movements within faith communities. In addition to promoting health-seeking behaviors, these programs have helped bridge cultural and religious divides. One such initiative, the Together Against Malaria (TAM) program, arose in 2006 from the common vision of national leaders from 10 faith communities in Mozambique to use their religious organizations to disseminate malaria control messages and commodities.
Why Population Data Matters: Ensuring Families Around the World Have Access to Family Planning
While you are out celebrating the close of the World Cup this Sunday, don’t forget to take a minute to remember that Sunday, 11 July, is World Population Day. World Population Day is annually observed on July 11 to reaffirm the human right to plan for a family. It encourages activities, events and information to help make this right a reality throughout the world. This year’s theme, “Everyone Counts” is meant to highlight the critical role data plays in tracking population trends.
Regaining its footing after a quarter century of conflict, northern Uganda is bustling with activity. Communities are working to restore local infrastructure and citizens are going about the business of rebuilding homes and lives. However the political reality is that the political leadership wanted to expedite the return process while also provide people with crucial information to returnees so they could make informed decisions about their lives.
Radio is not only the most reliable source of information for returning communities but also serves as the medium of choice to access the information people are seeking. However radio stations also have a limited ability to deliver the kind of content needed.
To encourage people to return and help them with their rebuilding efforts, the Lamele Theatre Artists, in collaboration with USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives, spearheaded the production of a radio drama. Ajing Conga, Bila Pa Ladwar (I Will Strengthen My Knees – The Song of a Hunter) focuses on three families that have returned to northern Uganda and are grappling to rebuild their lives. The show is providing returnees with crucial information on education, health, culture, security, and governance.
Three stations aired the 72 episodes of the radio drama three times a week. Once the production finished, the Lamele Theater Artists took the show on the road and performed skits live in villages. The shows, some of which were revised, were well received by northern Ugandans who were able to identify with the challenges and issues portrayed.
USAID is helping bring popular children’s television program Sesame Street to Nigeria through a five year grant. The show will be a 30 minute program titled Sesame Square that will run for three years. A portion of the grant will be focused on outreach programs for the country’s 25 million preschool-age children of whom only 10 percent are enrolled in school. The intent of this grant is to aid the country in building a strong foundation of basic literacy and numeracy as well as concentrating on the prevalent social issues. Sesame Square will be hosted by Kami, a lady Muppet who is HIV-positive, and another furry blue boy Muppet who has yet to be named. A national text vote campaign is currently in place to help name the unnamed Muppet and raise program awareness.
Albanian food producers, through USAID support, presented their products at an agro-food fair in New York last week. Over the last two years, USAID’s Competitiveness of Albanian Agriculture (CAA) program had aided Albanian agro-businesses in exploring profitable international markets. The New York food fair helped the nation establish trade contacts and provided information about the current and potential role of agriculture and food industry in the Balkans to American investors.
USAID Mission Director Pamela White participated in the celebration of the signing of a $15 million Threshold Program grant with Liberia. The grant will fund a three year program coordinated by USAID that will focus on improving land rights and access as well as girls’ primary education and trade policy. The people of Liberia chose these areas themselves as part of their national development strategy.
Babies across the globe, wealthy or poor alike, all face the same treacherous moment—the moment when they take their first breath. And for 829,000 babies each year, this moment is their last. These infants require help to fill their lungs with life-sustaining air and for too many poor nations, the knowledge and tools to necessary to save them aren’t available.
USAID is working with the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Laerdal Medical AS, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Save the Children to correct this issue through the “Helping Babies Breathe” initiative. This international campaign aims to prevent birth asphyxia through teaching midwives and birth attendants in poor countries how to gently nudge newborns into the world of respiration.
Henry Adobor Aceritas will start raising Boer goats for the local market. Tenu Awoonor is going to build Student Card Limited, a company designed to provide cashless payments for school fees and student lunches with the use of a multifunctional identification card. Paul Ansah’s ANSA Systems Limited will work to provide reliable utility power for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) facilities. Kojo Taylor’s MicroClinics will work on improving access to primary healthcare and essential drugs in rural communities.
What do these four people have in common?
All are recipients of African Diaspora Marketplace grants. USAID and Western Union sponsored the program in which recipients receive as much as $100,000 in grant funding to better their communities in Ghana. The (ADM) finalists were chosen by an independent panel of volunteer judges from business, non-governmental organizations, diaspora development organizations and academia in an effort to increase opportunity in Sub-Saharan Africa through fostering sustainable start-ups and established enterprises. Fourteen candidates–all who presented business plans and work with African diaspora throughout the world to help guide them as they set up their businesses–were chosen from a pool of 733 applicants.
Pictured here, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah stands behind a group of pregnant women who meet regularly with community health workers to discuss health issues at Garage Bentenier, a community health hut about 80 km outside of the capital, Dakar. Photo by Mamadou Touré.
A community health hut is an innovative approach to ensure health services for those who don’t have the money or the transportation to travel great distances to see a doctor. USAID supports a nationwide network of nearly 1,500 huts in Senegal, staffed by almost 10,000 volunteers, covering a population of nearly two and a half million people. These often small, one or two-room structures are widely accessible around the country, including remote, rural areas where there may be no other health provider available. It is community-managed, financed and volunteer-staffed, which means it’s not government driven, but in the hands of the people. USAID began supporting these structures in the early ‘80s and since then, as the largest and most consistent donor, its support has become synonymous with comprehensive community care here. In fact, it is a very important aspect of the malaria prevention and treatment program (the President’s Malaria Initiative) and critical to family planning and reproductive health programs, all of which work hard to reduce maternal and child mortality, as part of the Millennium Development Goals.